Durham News: Opinion

Veronica Kim: Appreciation as the curtain falls

This is a thank-you and a goodbye and everything in between.

This is because the stage was never comfortable. Sophomore year, when I stepped into the auditorium for my first musical audition, I was trembling. I missed a note – I still remember. But when the cast list was posted (and I had made it!), I was the most excited that I have ever been.

Two years later, I’ve transitioned from the stage to the booth, where, in a couple of days, I’ll be calling cues as the stage manager of Durham Academy’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” Yet, surveying the blue-lined seats and perennially dusty stage floor of Kenan Auditorium, I am still surprised by the ease with which I run up the steps and allow the spotlight to swallowed me.

I used to think the stage would hide me. That’s what acting was – pretending to be someone else, shedding your own skin for another, an hour or two away from yourself, from the mundaneness and banality of your everyday life. Instead, I’ve learned that the scariest thing about being onstage is the way it opens you up completely.

Be vulnerable, my acting teacher and musical director, Mr. Bohanek, would say. It was something I always struggled with; I never liked opening myself up to anyone. An entire audience? No way.

Thank you. This is for the first time I put on a costume and realized that, no matter how ugly the dress, looking the part was more important than looking good. This is for the Sharpie-lined podium on stage left where my assistant stage manager and I recently preserved our legacy in black ink.

Someday we’ll just be two of those hundreds of students passing through, leaving behind only a name, a forgotten inside joke, a handprint on the wall behind the prop table.

It’s bittersweet, not being onstage this year. When Mr. Bohanek asked me to be the stage manager, I found myself between two warring halves: the desire to perform in my last high school show and the wish to extend beyond the stage, to learn the makings of a musical outside of the singing and the staging and the rehearsing.

Ultimately, I chose stage management. And I miss the stage. I miss the singing, the staging, the rehearsing. I know that, when the curtain opens, I’ll miss the pre-show anticipation, the post-show euphoria. I’ll be calling cues from the booth and every part of me will be missing the incomparable high of just being onstage.

But here’s the thing. A week ago, we gave monologues in acting class, and I realized that I wasn’t struggling, anymore, with being vulnerable. Honest, Mr. Bohanek said. There were these wonderful parts where I just saw you.

Nothing else. Just me, and the words, and the stage.

I’m writing this upon returning from my first tech rehearsal, and I’ve realized something else: the stage is becoming more comfortable. It’s not a place where performances happen, where acting happens. I don’t feel the need to put on a different persona anymore. It’s no less special, but it’s more a part of me.

It is the scariest place I have ever been, and the realest, and it has opened me up more than anything or anyone else has ever been able to.

Goodbye. This is for the moment when the curtain falls. This is for the people who just love it, the sheer exhilaration of stepping from the wings into the spotlight. This is for the pure joy of being onstage and being alive.

Veronica Kim can be reached at 16kim@da.org.

If you go

Durham Academy presents “Fiddler on the Roof” Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 11-13 at the Durham Academy Upper School, in Kenan Auditorium. Shows are at 7:30 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee on the 13th. Tickets can be reserved at www.da.org/reservations.

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